Sunday, November 21, 2010


With the exception of some pieces of fiction, you really haven't heard much from me lately. I can't decide if you guys are missing the snark yet or rolling in the silence. Either way, that temporary peace might have just been shattered.

There's this great organization called Host UK. What happens is if you're a student from another country, you can fill out an application, tell them where you're studying, what you're interested in, and how much you'd be willing to spend on travel, and they put you up with one of their hosts for the weekend. Your host feeds you, gives you a place to stay, and usually sort of shows you around the UK town they live in.

I spent this past weekend in Bath, England. My host was over sixty, and had lost her husband little over a year ago. But that was okay, because she seemed really enthusiastic about hosting and she' had done this plenty of times before. And I didn't think it was a big deal that she was about fifteen minutes late to pick me up, because, and I was looking right at it, traffic was chaotic. I can understand that. That's fine. And our first little trip out to a place called Wells to see the abbey and bishop's palace, that was cool, too. The church was absolutely awesome (if you're still stalking around my Photobucket, I'm working on it, though that seems to be Louise's Famous Last Words, but you know me) and that was a really nice way to start the weekend off. I'd been on a train for three hours, then sat in a car for another half an hour, got out and wandered around an abbey, and then back into the car and we drove to her house, where I would be staying. I had my own bathroom - down the hall toward the kitchen - and I had my own room. And it was nearly the size of my one at home in New York, so it was pretty big. It was really nice. She has a lot to offer these kids that come stay with her - which, from my understanding, are a lot of Chinese students because they come over to England for university a lot of the time.

Cottage pie for dinner followed by a sort of apple cake thing that had been warmed in the oven, and we watched a little TV and talked about what was going to happen the next day. The woman is over sixty. Walking is not her strong point, and you know damn well I'm prepared to hike all over the place if it means I can see all that I can see and do all I can do. So she was just going to drop me off in the middle of Bath, by the abbey and the Roman Baths, and I would catch the two hour tour that was leaving from there. I'd see all sorts of things.

Honestly, it reminded me of when we went to Toronto for class in the spring. Most of Toronto's speakers involved wandering around and looking at social housing, mixed housing, and that sort of thing. In Bath? You looked at Georgian architecture and talked about the heavy Roman influence and how the place had been a spa for the rich and maybe not-so-famous. The Circus was a great piece of architecture (a circle with three roads coming in all equally spaced apart, really a thing of beauty) and the Royal Crescent was nice, too. It's a crescent-shaped building. And, of course, the Roman Baths because that's what made the place famous to begin with. And really, once you've seen all of that, you've really seen Bath.

I wandered through the Roman Baths. They still function - they've actually opened a new spa right behind the Roman Baths that uses the natural hot spring water that bubbles up - but you can't swim in them because, well, the water's green from algae. There's no roof on the thing, so the sunlight hits the water, and the algae grows.

Another interesting point is that the sheets of lead that surround the pool? They're still there, and still watertight. I heard that and I immediately thought of something along the lines of lead poisoning, anyone? But apparently not. And no, it's not much warmer by the water than outside the building.

Right next to the Roman Baths is Bath Abbey. It's a fraction of the size of the Norman church that used to stand there, but it's still impressive. Along the sides of the front door is a Jacob's Ladder, in which there are angels ascending to heaven. I felt really bad for the bottom angels, because they were missing their heads - most likely due to erosion - but everything else was pretty much intact on the outside.

In Bath Abbey, you can go on what's called the Tower Tour. You get to go up into the tower and see the back of the clock face and see the bells. You learn about how they ring them - because, yes, they still have bell ringers, and it's not as easy as it sounds if you want the real deal - and we were actually in the bell room when the clock struck two. The only reason that we weren't deafened was because the mechanical parts hit the bell with a hammer, it doesn't swing like a bell ringer is doing it. If we had been in the room when they - especially the tenner bell - were swinging, you'd kiss your hearing goodbye.

As my host was coming to pick me up at half four (four-thirty), that didn't really leave me a lot of time to find lunch and then get to where she was picking me up, after seeing everything that I had wanted to.

I thought it very appropriate to work on Murphy and Me while in a Irish pub sipping on a pint of Caffrey's and waiting for my BBQ chicken melt. The chips were excellent, the melt not so much, and the beer was, as usual, good.

Once again with my map and on foot, I hoofed it to the William Herschel Museum - and was not very impressed with it, I'll tell you that, and I don't really care that the guy did live in that house - and then was craving something sweet for some reason. Which meant that I found a pub (because I didn't have time to walk all the way back to the Ben and Jerry's by the abbey) and saw that they had Sticky Toffee Pudding.

Heaven in a bowl.

I don't normally eat butterscotch (my dad likes butterscotch pudding, but I won't touch the stuff) but I am a huge fan of Sticky Toffee Pudding, specifically with custard. You have to be careful with that first couple of mouthfuls because you'll burn yourself pretty spectacularly, but after that it's bliss.

I had curry for the first time on Saturday night. It was good (I'm still not a big fan of curry, despite what I told her because, on occasion, a Sagittarius can be tactful) and after watching more DVR'd Rugby than you should probably watch in one sitting (though when Scotland plays, they have bagpipes and music by The Proclaimers) and then she wanted to watch something about America in the fifties and sixties. Something about the American Dream.

And that's kind of where the night went to hell in a handbag.

I'm sitting here struggling how to word this. How to start this.

Yes, I'm a scientist. A chemist, more specifically. I know that the creation of the atomic bomb was a great development in complete science terms. Forget everything but the science. If you look at just that, it was a great advancement. And I like advancements in science; maybe one day science will find a cure for cancer, and that would be awesome.

Now go back and factor everything else about the end of World War II into the equation with that science, and the fallout - literal and figurative - from dropping Fat Man and Little Boy. The understatement of the century would be to say it wasn't good. Thousands of people died, and even more are, in some cases, still suffering the after-affects of that this day. Their parents or grandparents had radiation sickness. Buildings were leveled, people died. Without getting too much into the politics, it was a very bad thing. Understatement? You betcha.

I'm sitting in this armchair and I'm hopin' that we can get off this topic and move on because it's not the greatest, and it's not one of America's finer moments, when my host goes, "That's the best thing that America could have ever done, drop those bombs on Japan."

I was speechless. Absolutely speechless.

It was also a struggle not to say anything because what exactly was I supposed to say to the woman who had taken me into her house for the weekend, fed me, gave me someplace to sleep, and had drove me into town? So, and this was by no means easy, I kept my mouth shut and hoped she wouldn't say anything else along those lines. Mostly because I was so infuriated that she had such a disregard for human life and the lasting effects of something of that magnitude, but also because, wouldn't you think something like that might offend someone?

I was still pretty mad by the time we hit the sixties in the program. And they got talking about homosexuality, how there was a beach in California that was known as the Queer Beach, and this guy was talking about a sort of pseudo-affair thing that he'd had, and the next thing I know she's pressed he fast forward button (she'd recorded the program) with a, "Too much talk about homosexuality."

Still sittin' in my armchair, grindin' my back teeth together.

Then she starts to speak about the dissolution of marriages and how homosexuality undermines what's a natural marriage. How it leads to depression in both the parents and the children. Basically, how pushing homosexuality has destroyed natural families.

I was downright livid by the time she pushed play, but also trying to figure out what exactly I should do. Again, I was in this conundrum of, do I say something? If I do, what do I say? How do I say it? Or is this another occasion to just keep my mouth shut?

Actually, what I really wanted was out of there. I honestly didn't want to be in the house anymore. If she had been closer to the city of Bath, closer to other places to stay, I would have packed my belongings in the night and left because I did not want to be there anymore. And I debated getting up and leaving the room. Then I thought if I did that, she'd want to know why I'd done it, and I didn't really want to talk about it.

Mostly because I didn't want to offend the person that had opened their home to me for the weekend.

It was a struggle for me to enjoy the rest of my time there. There wasn't much left, truthfully, and even though I went with her to her church - St. Mary's - and I was respectful of the service (because I do have manners and I know how to behave) I just really wanted out. I wanted to be as far away from this woman as I could possibly be. I just wanted to get on the train and go back to Wales and, honestly, never see her or hear her again.

At one point I was counting minutes.

Bath is a nice city. There's not really much to do other than shopping, but there's some pretty neat pubs and shops and architecture to look at. And now, honestly, I'm struggling to not let the last half of my interactions with this woman color the entire trip for me. It's difficult.

Gimme a week and ask me what I think of Bath. By that point I might not be so pissed off.

1 comment:

Connie said... really showed some restraint there! I agree it was better for you to just stay quiet.

It is a great program! Now I want a beer and some sticky pudding!

"The difference between life and the movies is that a script has to make sense, and life doesn't."

-Joseph L. Mankiewicz